Spring is the best time of year to kickstart a new running routine. With the majority of marathons happening nationwide during the autumn season, and crisp weather calling for outdoor jogs, Lolë’s professional running ambassador, Leanne Shear, has valuable advice to share with beginning runners and advanced runners alike.
As cofounder of Uplift Studios — a women-only fitness studio in New York City — author and motivational personal trainer, Shear has been helping women live fuller, more active lives for years. Make the most out of marathon season with her tips.
GPS watches are all the rage, and they can be a good tool for measuring pace and distance in accordance with your training goals. However, they also take a lot of the fun, instinct and spontaneity out of a run. At least once a week, leave the GPS watch at home and just run based on how you feel, and not what your training program says to do.
For me, leggings and a great tank top are key: I highly recommend the Lolë brand Run Capri for a great fit. Their “Twist” tank top is also the best — and has an iPod holder built in! Right up there with my outfit is getting every last piece of hair out of my face. Lolë has an awesome headband with subtle rubber grips to mitigate sliding — it also isn’t too tight, which tends to be a problem with other bands.
Sneakers are very specific to each individual and body type. If possible, go get your gait analyzed by professionals at a local running or sporting goods store. Generally speaking, we humans are not built to run long distances in minimalist shoes. However, more important than what we “should” or “shouldn’t” wear is what feels and works best for each individual. So test a few pairs out and see where things land!
Similarly, sneakers should be replaced every four to five months (at least) — more if your mileage is up there. Don’t shirk on size, and save your toenails: Running sneakers should be about half a size larger than your regular shoe size, as feet can swell up, especially on long runs or in warmer weather.
For long races or runs, take half a gel or Gu pack 30 minutes into the race, and then continue that pattern every 30 minutes to the end. Consistency in race nutrition is key. If you wait to eat when you’re hungry, your fuel levels are already too low and you will hit the proverbial wall too soon.
“Carb-loading” the night before a race really isn’t necessary and in fact has been proven somewhat ineffective, especially for women. In lieu of that, eat a healthy dinner and then a solid breakfast, including a good fat (e.g., nut butter), protein and good carbs (e.g., brown rice or sweet potato).
I get asked a lot what to eat before a run. The answer is that everyone is different. Some people cannot digest a big meal too close to a run, so I recommend a small handful of almonds, which oddly tend to agree with a finicky stomach (probably because fat slows down digestion for a slower burn). If you need more fuel, try the good-carb/good-fat/protein combo, eating, for example, a whole-wheat English muffin with almond butter and banana.
Recovery eating is more of the same thing. Within 45 minutes of a tough run or race, eat a small meal consisting of good fat, protein and good carbs. It’s a necessity to replenish your energy stores and build muscle.
Hydration is probably the biggest factor in performance out on the road or trail and in fitness in general. Everyone needs to be drinking tons of water every day, especially in the summer when we dehydrate that much faster. Mix in a post-run Gatorade or coconut water for some added electrolyte action.
A secret for rehydration: Watermelon! Bonus is that it is a delicious post-run snack, particularly in warmer weather. Add in a handful of almonds for your protein and good fat.
Contrary to popular opinion, actually running five to seven days a week while in training is not a good idea for almost everyone. Do a longer run, a shorter run and a “workout” day (e.g., hills or speed) and then mix in strength (do not be afraid to lift — it will make your endurance go through the roof!) and cross training.
When you get to a big hill, don’t panic! This, too, shall pass. To make it easier, shorten your stride considerably, and make quicker, choppier steps, pumping your arms (but relax those shoulders!) to help propel you up and over. Don’t forget to “pop the top” — in other words, don’t slow down and start dragging your feet when the top is in sight. Continue powerfully over the hill and then dial back to head down the back end. Just a word to the wise, though — be controlled on the downhill. If you use it as an excuse to fly down out of control, your shins will be screaming afterward.
Amp up the intensity. Your body gets used to things very quickly, so your standard 3- or 4-mile slog isn’t going to cut it very quickly. If you want to continue to get stronger and faster, build in speed work. Don’t have a lot of time? No problem. A 20-minute fast run (race pace or faster) works wonders. Or do the 30/30 workout: 10 minutes of a warmup jog, 15 minutes of 30 seconds fast followed by 30 minutes recovery, then five minutes of a cool down jog.
This should go without saying, but run safe. Grab a buddy. Keep the iPod volume down low, and be aware of your environment. Don’t run alone in secluded areas or really early in the a.m., or late at night. Follow the rules of the road (e.g., run against traffic).
Rest is pivotal. Take at least one day off per week — over-training is a total detriment to your long-term goals. At the first sign of injury, stop doing anything for at least two days. Build back slowly after an injury.
Stretch and do yoga. For some of us runners, stretching and yoga is an afterthought at best. However, flexibility will definitely make you a better runner.
Running is just as much about your mental state as it is about the physical. It’s also a level playing field because no matter how hard or extensively you train, a bad day can hit like a ton of bricks. Therefore, when you want to run well or meet a goal, prepare mentally: Before you hit the pavement, have a plan and vision with what you want to accomplish in a given race or run. See it through to the end. Then go out and do it!